Sanssouci Park and Palaces
The main sights in Potsdam are concentrated in Park Sanssouci – a huge 740-acre park originally laid out by Frederick the Great, with several palaces and other buildings of note. Most of the park and palaces are UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites.
The most import construction in the park is the small, but magnificent, Rococo summer residence erected by Frederick the Great in 1747. He called it Schloss Sanssouci – French, which was his preferred language, for “without a care.” Here, Frederick hoped to leave the problems of state behind and pursue his own personal interests, especially in music and philosophy. Although the business of state soon followed him here, he increasingly preferred Potsdam to Berlin. He spent time here entertaining enlightened thinkers such as Voltaire and he lured musicians, including Johann Sebastian Bach’s son Carl Emmanuel, to his court. During Frederick’s time only men stayed at the court during summer; a Ladies’ Wing was added about a century later.
[Related page: Great Castles of Germany.]
Bildergalerie and Orangerie
Closeby Bildergalerie was also built by Frederick the Great, as the first museum building in Germany. The collection consists mainly of Baroque paintings of the Dutch, French and Italian schools and includes works by Rubens, Van Dyck, and Caravaggio.
The Orangerie was built in 1851-64. It is best approached from the center of the park. The walk is long, with numerous steep stairs, but the views are rewarding. In the park, at the edges of the palace grounds, is an equestrian statue of Frederick the Great – it is a copy of the one on Unter den Linden in Berlin. During the Communist regime, Frederick and all things Prussian were out of fashion and the original Berlin statue was banished to this park. The palace requires another short guided tour (i3) that includes the Raphael Rooms – unfortunately only copies. The tower has an observation platform with magnificent views of Potsdam and is visited without a tour, i1 per person.
Nearby is the Historic Windmill, originally erected 1787-1791, but burned down in 1945. It was rebuilt in 1993 to house a museum on milling, a lookout tower, and the Sanssouci Visitors’ Center. According to legend, the mill’s noise irritated Frederick the Great and he had it shut down until a court overruled him.
Neues Palais and Other Royal Sights
The Neues Palais (New Palace) requires about half an hour's walk from Schloss Sanssouci. The Baroque palace, built 1763-1769, was Frederick the Great’s most opulent palace and is considered one of the most beautiful in all of Germany. It has 400 rooms behind a façade over 200 m (656 feet) long. It was built at the end of the costly SilesianWar, at great expense to Prussian taxpayers, to prove that the war had not bankrupted Prussia.
In the south of the park are three more royal sights. Arguably the most interesting is the richly gilded Chinesisches Haus (Chinese Teahouse). It was built by Frederick the Great as a summer dining room and is a good example of European chinoiserie during the late 18th century. Admission is i1. Although the Romans never made it this far, faux Roman Baths were constructed between 1829 and 1840. This complex consists of the Roman baths, the residence of the court gardener, a tea pavilion, and an Arcade hall with rotating exhibitions.
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